By now, you've read or seen the Cool Girl rant from Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl on women who contort themselves into the impossible male ideal: submissive, affable, and most importantly, zero complaints. I'm a former Cool Girl, minus the single digit dress size and love of processed meats, and I hate and love that Flynn is so right.
Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she's hosting the world's biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, s*** on me, I don't mind, I'm the Cool Girl.
The bulk of the debate is focused on the Cool Girl's singular goal of getting the guy by being his chameleon. As a former Cool Girl myself, it wasn't just about getting the guy, but it was about survival and acceptance.
Both of my parents were fairly misogynistic, and they favored my brothers strongly. My brothers got the most attention, money, and praise. From a young age, I easily and quickly gained my father's attention when I joined him in his rants about fashion, make up, the "mythical" wage gap, the glass ceiling "excuses," and how girls didn't study as hard as boys and that's why young girls were always behind. My father didn't care that I was agreeing with opinions that I really didn't understand; he was only pleased with me when I fulfilled his expectations.
After college, I picked a male-dominated profession: politics. During my first two internships, I had two bosses that cherished the men in the office. Although none of the interns were paid, the male interns were regularly taken out to lunch while the female interns had to stay in the office to do filing and answer phones. I honestly believed that in order to get ahead, I had to fit in with those male interns and be as indistinguishable as possible so I could get the plum assignments. After forcing myself to chug Irish car bombs and watch baseball (which I still hate) and have my breasts critiqued by those assholes while I pretended to laugh with them, my bosses still passed me over.
As for dating, my romantic life panned out the same way this article said it would. I never "got the guy" because as soon as I got his attention, he'd get bored and move onto the next Cool Girl. A compliant, submissive, agreeable, and constantly flexible partner is a boring one. There's no healthy debate, independent interests, self-examination or risk. Although I hated myself, I honestly thought that was the only path to love because that's all I'd ever seen at that point in my life.
And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They're not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they're pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be.
To be sure, there are plenty of women who sincerely enjoy the activities Flynn writes about. (Just check out these comments.) But those women's interests aren't about snagging a man or getting ahead; they actually like eating hotdogs and tailgating because those are fun things to do for them. (A good friend of mine hands over the baby to her husband and kicks them both out of the den because she doesn't want to hear anything else when NASCAR is on.)
Thankfully I grew out of all the crap, and I'm no longer shy about my hatred of professional sports. I don't pretend to care about issues that don't interest me; I stand up for myself if I think I'm being mistreated; I am a single digit dress size but that's because it's my personal goal and not someone else's; and if my husband stands me up, I let him know it's not okay. I always liked video games and horror movies so those didn't change.
Tracy Moore is correct that the Cool Girl is just a phase. But it's also a survival tool for many women who don't feel they have any other options to succeed or be comfortable with themselves at home or at work or with friends and family because we're still bombarded with misogynistic garbage. I'm not sure what Flynn's intent was with this the Cool Girl concept, but snagging a man makes up one sad element of this terrible persona. (I haven't seen the movie yet, but the book version of Amy touches on this as she relates to her parents.)
The Cool Girl is just like a dog at the racetrack chasing a stuffed rabbit. Neither one of them will ever get what they truly want, but they will work as hard as they can to get it.